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Marchers in Ponsonby remember Dawn Raids and call for overstayer amnesty.

Marchers take to the streets in Ponsonby to remember the pain caused by the Dawn Raids.

Photo/ Asia Pacific Report/ David Robie


March highlights Dawn Raids pain and overstayer uncertainty

Community gathers to remember Dawn Raids and to pay tribute to overstayers past and present.

Khalia Strong
Khalia Strong
02 October 2023, 2:59pm
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Dozens gathered in the wind and rain for a peaceful march along Ponsonby’s main street at the weekend.

The Savali ole Filemu march recognised the anxiety which currently faces overstayers, and the pain still felt from the Dawn Raids.

Tongan community leader Pakilau Manase Lua says coming to New Zealand to improve your life shouldn’t be a crime.

“They took a risk, OK, they broke the law, but so is breaking the speed limit. It’s not a criminal act to come here and try and find a life.

Holding a photo frame of his late father, Siosifa Lua, Pakilau says we will remember those who never got justice for how they were treated.

“We came to build this country, and we’re still building this country, and how are we treated? Like dogs!


“Those days are over. Our children are here. The generations that build this country are here.”

Labour's Papakura candidate 'Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki says being an overstayer had personal consequences when her grandfather died in 1977.

“My mother was still an overstayer here, and she had to make a decision … return to Tonga to say farewell to her father, or remain here, for the betterment of the future of her children.”

Political promises

The government apologised for the Dawn Raids in 2021, and the Labour Party is now promising an amnesty for overstayers of more than ten years, if elected.

But Polynesian Panther activist Will ‘Ilolahia says these political promises are too little, too late.

“We’ve got a deputy prime minister that's a Pacific Islander, and now they’re bribing our people to vote for them so they can stay in. Sorry, you’ve missed the bus.”

Green Party candidate Teanau Tuiono agrees more should have been done.

“Healing takes time, it takes discussion, and it’s not just something that you can just apologise for and then it ends.

“Yes, the Dawn Raids apology was a good thing, but we also need to have an amnesty for overstayers and pathways for residency. Because let’s be clear, that amnesty could have happened last year.”

Mesepa Edwards says they are continuing the legacy of the Polynesian Panthers’ original members.

“I’m a 21st Century Panther. What they fought for, back in the 70s and 60s, we’re still fighting for today.”